Battles at QB, RB still up in the air for Mavs
Justin Murray made a nice adjustment on a ball in the end zone, gathering it in for a touchdown. Suddenly, he was out of real estate on the Mesa State College practice field and had no choice.
Down in the gulley and back up the other side he went, then had to run back down the gulley and up onto the field during the Mavericks’ scrimmage Saturday morning that wrapped up spring football camp.
A ditch just beyond the south end zone was only an obstacle once — on the next series, the Mavs turned the offense around and played toward the north end zone.
Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno and his staff went into the spring season hoping to figure out who might have the inside track to replace Phil Vigil at quarterback and Bobby Coy at running back.
Sophomore Joey Applehans might have the edge at running back, but it’s going to be full backfield from the looks of Saturday’s workout.
Will Halbroth, who moved from safety to running back, had some good runs, and sophomore Tommy Campbell, who missed last season with a knee injury, broke off a couple of big runs.
Redshirt freshman J.R. Hamm will also figure into the rotation. That group doesn’t include the most experienced back, Kyle Britton, who missed the spring game with an injury, as did fullback Kris Means.
“They got better this spring, got a lot of downs,” Ramunno said. “I think they’ll fill in nicely.
Nobody replaces Bobby Coy; he’s one of a kind, but these guys will have a different twist to it and will bring some positive things to the offense.”
The defense was still dominant against a banged-up offensive line, causing the two redshirt freshman quarterbacks to do a fair share of scrambling and throwing early.
The black-shirted defense picked off a handful of passes, a couple of which would have been returned for touchdowns had the coaches not blown the play dead.
Another factor in several overthrown balls was a good-sized crowd watching the scrimmage. Russ Means, the father of fullback Kris Means, organized the Lawn Chair Bowl, a fundraiser to help defray some travel costs this coming season because of budget cuts at the college.
The west sideline was full of fans, with even more beyond the north end zone.
“They got jazzed up,” Ramunno said of his young quarterbacks. “We had a crowd come in and they got a little nervous. I just told them, ‘take a deep breath.’ ’’
Robert Felberg threw the TD to Murray, and both quarterbacks showed they have strong arms.
Neither Felberg nor Mike Mankoff claimed the No. 1 spot this spring in the race to start next fall, but Ramunno said that’s OK for now.
“I think they’re both going to be in the mix,” he said. “That’s kind of what we’re looking at.
They both have really good tendencies with what they do, they’re just green. They’re learning on every down.
“They’re both 4.0 students, so they’re really smart in the classroom and that makes it easier to learn what we’re doing.”
However, Ramunno said, both are ahead of where Vigil was last spring, because they’ve had a year to learn the offense.
“They’ve had some time with it and we traveled one of them with us every week,”
Ramunno said. “They are going to be solid and I think they’ll both be in the mix.”
Does that mean Ramunno is considering a two-quarterback rotation next fall?
“Right now I’m OK with that, but we’re gonna have to ask Jon first,” Ramunno said, laughing and glancing toward offensive coordinator Jon Boyer. “Right now we’re looking at maybe playing both.”